Nearly 90 people joined militancy in Kashmir in 2016, the highest in six years and potentially linked to public angst after the killing of Hijbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces.
Data provided by junior home minister Hansraj Ahir in Parliament on Wednesday show that 88 people joined militant ranks in the restive valley last year when large parts of Kashmir was rocked by protests against the killing of Wani.
At least 56 of them were from south Kashmir, the epicentre of the agitation that saw violent clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces.
Nearly 100 people – including security personnel -- were killed during the months of protests and thousands of others were injured, many of them blinded by pellet guns.
Till March 18 this year, as many as 16 people have joined the ranks of militants, the data shows.
India says insurgency in Kashmir is fuelled by groups based in Pakistan and that most of the militants are from the neighouring country. Hijbul Mujahideen is the only active Kashmir-based militant group at present.
“The levels of violence in the hinterland of Jammu & Kashmir are linked to infiltration from across the border,” Ahir said in his written reply.
The numbers also indicate that the number of Kashmiris joining militancy is linked to an event that had sparked civilian anger.
The data show a spike in locals joining militancy in 2014, a year after Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged. His hanging had become a rallying point for the Kashmiri youngsters. At least 53 people took up arms in 2014, a sharp rise from 16 the year before.
In 2011 and 2013, the number of locals joining militancy stood at 23 and 21.
However, as many as 54 people had turned militants in 2010, the year the valley saw largescale protests after three civilians were killed by the army in a fake encounter in the Machil sector near the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border with Pakistan.
Six soldiers, including a former commanding officer, were given life sentences by an army court of inquiry over the incident.
According to the figures provided by Ahir, out of the 104 people who joined militancy since last year, 12 were killed by the security forces and 25 were arrested.
The data also shows that in 2016, at least 371 attempts were made by militants to infiltrate from across the border. It was the highest since 2010 when 489 infiltration buds were recorded.
In a separate reply, the minister said quoting data provided by the Jammu and Kashmir government that in the last two years, there were 18 incidents of stone-pelting during counter-insurgency operations.
Sources said this trend was on the rise since 2015 and has become a routine due to “motivation and provocation” from across the border through social media platforms.
In the latest such incident, at least three civilians were killed on Tuesday when security forces fired on stone-pelting protesters when in Budgaon district. The protesters had allegedly attacked security forces when they were engaged in a gun-fight with militants.
During a visit to Kashmir recently, army chief General Bipin Rawat had warned of strict action against protesters who attack security forces during anti-insurgency operations.